Pantomimes in Christmas – Xmas Traditions

Also known as Panto, (the shortened form), Pantomime is a common Christmas tradition in Britain where people gather at theaters to watch a play.

Yet, it has a very non-British background and didn’t have anything to do with Christmas!

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What is Pantomimes

It is now considered primarily a form of children’s entertainment, performed in a theater, based on traditional children’s fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

But, pantomime actually started out as a type of adult entertainment dating back to ancient Roman times.

Also known as (Saturnalia), or the Midwinter Feast, where everything was meant to be backward. Women would dress up like men and men dressed up as women.

Similar to that of Pantomime Dames when young women dressed like boys and men dressed as girls in a comical Panto display.

History of Pantomimes

First introduced to Britain during the eighteenth century, pantomime is an old Italian tradition known as (commedia dell’arte).

Comedic plays were put on with various characters like court jesters and circus clowns.

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The plots tended to get mixed up with classic fairy tales, folktales, and eventually became the familiar pantomimes we know and love.

The traditional acting figures who performed in the commedia dell’arte gradually vanished and were replaced with those of today.

Thus, playing a big part in our traditional Christmas festivities, which often occurred just before Christmas!

History of Pantomimes

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pantomimes changed quite a bit thanks to the Music-Hall Entertainments.

The stars from that era included famous comedians and music-hall artistes. Many shows would have unpredictable plots that switched back and forth.

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Yet, the story pretty much stays the same. In today’s world, pop icons and Hollywood movie stars continue the pantomime tradition.

Pantomimes in Present Times

Now pantomime has become a popular holiday tradition.

The audience is engrossed with the performers on stage, joining in with song vocals, helping in the magic shows, and cheering their favorite hero on!

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Main Points About Pantomimes

  1. A pantomime is a type of comedy (in musical form) staged for entertainment. It is frequently performed in the UK, Ireland and other English-speaking countries.
  2. In recent times, is primarily for children entertainment, based on children’s fairy stories like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White.
  3. Pantomimes were never originally associated with Christmas. It originated in England, dating back to the 16th century.
  4. Pantomime came from ‘Commedia dell’Arte’, an Italian tradition of improvised theatre. It features a lot of stock characters.
  5. Pantomime has become a very popular form of family entertainment. Since Christmas brings the family together, it is a common practice to see a pantomime in the theatre.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Pantomimes


A British traditional Christmas play is pantomimes, or “Panto” and is usually based on traditional stories like Cinderella for example.

But it started as entertainment for grown-ups in Roman mid-winter celebrations and came to Britain in the 18th century as commedia dell’arte.

Italian improvised theatre and as the commedia dell’arte figures disappeared gradually, it became more and more as we know it today and an expected happening on Christmas festivities.

Word Cloud for Pantomimes

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Pantomimes. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

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